There’s something wrong with our town when a 16-year-old, seeing the deadly toll of gun violence all around him, writes about his life plans and ends with “if I make it to 21” .
There’s something even worse when this 16-year-old is shot dead in the city’s downtown park, allegedly by another 17-year-old.
The weekend murder of Seandell Holliday in Millennium Park is part of a recent spate of downtown shootings. Gun violence in the affluent, touristy part of town is just the latest example of the violence that affects every corner of Chicago.
Quick fixes, like Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s latest curfew restrictions for minors, won’t work to curb this youth violence, research shows.
Change will only come with a multifaceted approach: more effective gun regulation and long-term prevention focused on employment, education, mental health counseling and violence intervention .
Minors and “responsible adults”
According to a 2016 study published by The Campbell Collaboration, the effects of curfews are “likely to be minimal at best” and “unlikely to be a meaningful solution to youth crime and disorder”.
The research also points to other studies that show curfews don’t work because minors mostly commit crimes in the hours before and after school, and understaffed police departments don’t have the time to make sure the kids are inside at night.
For these reasons, Lightfoot’s latest restriction, barring minors from Millennium Park after 6 p.m. Thursday through Sunday unless accompanied by “at least one responsible adult,” is likely to be ineffective and discriminatory.
How can authorities determine who is a trustworthy adult versus a teenager? There are plenty of baby-faced adults out there, some of whom aren’t the best role models. Then there are teenagers who look more mature, like the 14-year-old “little cop” who successfully impersonated a Chicago police officer multiple times after his first arrest.
Meanwhile, 18- and 19-year-olds are legally adults, but are still teenagers themselves. Are they suddenly mature enough to watch 16 and 17 year olds?
Canceling the weekend curfew for minors citywide from 11 p.m. to 10 p.m. could also prove unsuccessful or make matters worse: when the curfew for minors was pushed back from midnight to 11 h In Washington, DC, gun violence has increased, according to a 2015 study by economists Jillian Carr and Jennifer Doleac.
And let’s face it. Curfew laws elsewhere have a disproportionate impact on people of color, according to the National Youth Rights Association. That means black and Hispanic youth will most likely be targeted, while white teens will likely be allowed to paint the town red until the early hours.
The ACLU has already strongly criticized the mayor’s decision and plans to send Lightfoot a letter asking how she justifies the restrictions, what legal authority she has to impose them and how they will be enforced.
Flooded with guns
Seandell, a Gary Comer College Prep student, made the warning “if I turn 21” in a handout given to him by staff at a mentorship program he was enrolled in. He knew full well that gun violence could strike anyone, anytime, anywhere in the city.
“There are people dying at an early age in Chicago,” Seandell told Vondale Singleton, the founder and CEO of CHAMPS, which stands for Culturally Helping And Making Positive Success.
Marion Richardson, 17, was charged with the murder and sentenced to $250,000 cash bond.
A 16-year-old was also arrested with a “ghost gun” near the crime scene.
Later Saturday evening, less than a mile away in the 300 block of South State Street, two more young men were shot and wounded.
Just four days before Seandell was shot following an altercation by ‘The Bean’, a 19-year-old was shot while riding in the back of a car on Michigan Avenue near the famous stainless steel sculpture.
To say we have a gun problem is an understatement. Curfews won’t solve that.
Singleton, Seandell’s mentor, was among local leaders who stood by Lightfoot when she announced the curfew adjustment on Monday. Singleton called the changes “a palliative to an immediate concern.”
But he also acknowledged that only a “tiered strategy” where parents, law enforcement officials, politicians, criminal justice advocates, activists, religious leaders and business leaders come together get together and “listen to each other” will be helpful.
Singleton said Lightfoot admitted she didn’t have the answers and would stay in touch with him to continue discussing what could be done to address the violence. It’s encouraging that the mayor is listening.
She should also listen to those who point out that curfews are not part of these answers.
Send letters to [email protected].